Mathematical Literacy

Ever heard someone say “we’re not doing Language Arts, we’re doing maths”?

I have.

Well, I saw a few things today that break down that sort of compartmentalization and fragmentation. They will seem pretty obvious to most people, but may be news to others!

This photo shows Joanna, an ESL Teacher, doing a maths lesson. This is the first indication that we understand, in our school, that maths is also language, that mathematical literacy is vital and that our students need language support in mathematics just as much as any other area of the curriculum.

Nicky and I had a good laugh when I walked into her classroom – the students were doing Mathletics. Of course, it was pretty clear that the students were also relying on and developing their language skills when doing Mathletics. Their ability to work through the challenges posed by Mathletics calls for increasingly advanced mathematical literacy. Their ability to navigate through the website involves complex “viewing” skills and reading skills.

A lot of teachers emailed me, jokingly, to say “don’t come to my room – we’re doing ISA tests”. So I didn’t! However, my class did the tests too and we had a good chat together about the tests and about what they were looking for. They really liked the fact that the maths parts were really focusing on mathematical literacy and their ability to read, understand and communicate mathematically rather than their ability to do calculations.

So, lots of maths going on today – and that means lots of language too!


One comment

  1. Gareth Jacobson

    Great point Sam about mathematical literacy. I always considered myself to be pretty “mathless” until I became a PYP teacher; that’s when I became much more aware of the math I use in my daily life. How many teachers have grappled with the dynamic problems presented by teaching and learning in collaborative environments – timetabling… learning styles… meetings… we have to be good at applied mathematics. Sometimes my mathematical brain is pushed to its limits!

    At 14, I soon zoned out of maths at school because it had no personal relevance beyond what I had already learned. However, if math is viewed as a language it allows us to totally reshape and recontextualise it, making it personally relevant to the learner. Math can become a tool to explore anything.

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